Vishwamitra begs Vashishtha for forgiveness

There are so many stories about Vishwamitra and Vashishtha. One of them is deeply moving. Vishwamitra wanted Vashishtha to call him Rajarshi or Brahmarshi, meaning “one who has attained the absolute highest”. But Vashishtha refused to use that title when he was speaking to Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra said, “If you do not tell the whole world that I have realised the absolute Highest, then I shall kill all your spiritual children one by one.”

Even then Vashishtha would not address him by that title, so Vishwamitra killed Vashishtha’s one hundred disciples, whom he called his sons.

Still Vashishtha would not declare that Vishwamitra had achieved the status of Brahmarshi. His wife, Arundhati, pleaded with him: “What are you doing? If you just say that Vishwamitra has realised the Highest, what harm is there in it? He has killed all your disciples. I am afraid that if you do not fulfil his wish, he will kill you as well.”

In spite of his wife’s request, Vashishtha remained firm. “No, I cannot do that,” he said. “I am ready to be killed, if necessary.”

Strangely enough, on that particular night Vishwamitra had come to kill Vashishtha. As he stood in front of the door to Vashishtha’s cottage, he overheard Vashishtha’s wife say, “Why do you not want to tell him that he has realised the highest Truth?”

Then he heard Vashishtha’s words of reply: “Because I love him. If I tell him at this stage of his life that he has realised the Highest, then it will be a lie. He will think that he has realised the Highest and yet he will not be able to get the results of the Highest. He will not be able to drink Nectar. Because I love him, I cannot tell him a lie.”

Vashishtha’s words touched Vishwamitra’s heart, and immediately he fell at Vashishtha’s feet and begged for forgiveness. At once Vashishtha forgave him. By touching Vashishtha’s feet, Vishwamitra did reach the Highest.

In those days, that kind of spiritual or occult power the sages had. Sri Aurobindo wrote a story about this particular episode. It is called “The Ideal of Forgiveness.” He described how Vashishtha forgave Vishwamitra even though Vishwamitra had killed one hundred of his disciples. When I was a young boy, I transferred this story into rhyming verse in Bengali. Many years later, I did it in English verse also.